spirituality

What is it with the mask?

There are over 300,000 deaths from COVID19 in the United States.  In California, over 20,000 people have died.  These are staggering numbers.  Last year, these individuals were entering a new year with no expectation of being crippled by a mysterious virus spreading throughout the world.  It is sobering to hear the daily statistics. The virus is surging, taking every available hospital bed in Los Angeles County.  Since March, we have been asked to stay at home, social distance, and wear a mask to protect one another from getting exposed to the virus.  While many heeded these instructions, countless did not.   What could be so challenging about covering one’s face.  One explanation is a psychological phenomenon called ‘psychological reactance’. 

…there may also be a further psychological explanation: the phenomenon of “psychological reactance”. This is where people vehemently believe they have freedom to behave how they wish, and experience negative emotions when this freedom is threatened, and so become motivated to reinstate it. This means that when told to wear a mask and socially distance, some people may perceive their behavioural freedom to be under threat. Anger and other negative emotions then follow. To reduce these uncomfortable feelings, these individuals may then attempt to restore their freedom by not complying with the advice.  Article:  The Conversation.com December 9, 2020

As a person of color with a history of government and society dictating legal and illegal ‘dos and don’ts’,  the psychology behind ‘not going to wear a mask’ seems fascinating.  We wear seat belts.  We wear helmets.  What is it really with the mask?  To step a bit deeper into this psychological reactance, The article in The Conversation.com defines this as “the motivational state that is hypothesized to occur when a freedom is eliminated or threatened with elimination” (Brehm and Brehm, 1981, p. 37).  So, let me see, if the ‘freedom being taken’ is someone else’s then it is ok.  I mean where has this ‘reaction’ been throughout our history as America has stolen and denied the right of self-determination to so many.  Maybe I am mixing apples and oranges.  This condition closely resembles ‘self-centeredness’ to me but of course I am not a psychologist. 

If we do not get in front of this pandemic more people will die.  I feel so very sad for those who already have, alone, most in hospital rooms, unable to interact with loved ones.  This is inhumane and will take its toll, I promise you.  I don’t know everyone who reads this blog, but my desire is to let you know, I wear a mask.  I am surrounded by senior citizens. I love them very much.  I will wash my hands, wear a mask, and social distance to make every effort to keep them safe. 

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

One of my core values is found in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is asked which of the commandments is most important. He responds, “The most important one is this: Here O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” Mark 13:28-31. I love Jesus’ teachings. I just wished more people who are recognized as Christians would follow them more closely. Loving my neighbor is a powerful mindset. I write about it often because I believe when everyone lives this way, the world changes for the better. Today, I inconvenience myself, even though it is slight in my opinion, by wearing a mask. I move around as if I have the disease so I social distance. I change my clothes when I come in from being in public a long time. I wash my hands often. We can all live this way. This pandemic will pass, empathize with your neighbor. We all benefit when we care about one another.

spirituality

Holidays. Pandemic. We need to talk

Christmastime was my mom’s favorite time of the year.  She would buy little gifts and ‘thinking-of-you’ trinkets all year long, hiding them in her closet and in little nooks throughout the house.  Around this time of the year, she would start pulling these treasures out of their hiding places, piling them high on her bed. As she reconciled the gift to the recipient. She would ask my sisters and I to help her write out gift tags for each gift so that she could easily distribute them.  The house would be covered in holiday decorations, many of which she had made herself.  She would have holiday music playing, smells of sweets baking, and she would be on the phone more than usual calling friends to check in on them and send Season’s Greetings.  This year with all these wonderful memories, I seem to have a very present companion, grief.  My mom passed in 2019.   

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

Grief.  Let’s talk

Grief is a deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death. Dictionary.com

This is not a sad blog.  NO!  Please do not shut me out yet.  I am writing to give us permission to have happiness and grief during this holiday season.  It is ok to be sad, mad, and overwhelmed with all that is happening in our world and in our lives.  It is natural, understandable, and healthy.  During this pandemic, we have lost a lot; family members, friends, our sense of normality.  If you are like me, you are still in shock.  Many are seeing their lives begin to crumble because of mandatory shutdowns.  There seems to be no end in sight and no simple solutions.  Our world is filled with grief.  I am saying out loud what I hope will help others to feel a since of comfort.  You are not alone. We will make it through this season together.

It is often said, “it just takes time” to get over … loss, causing us to wonder, “How much time?”  J. Nall, Chaplain, Bereavement Counselor 

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

I love the ocean. The sound of the waves matches the vibration of my soul. I have never had a bad experience watching the sun reflect off of the water. The waves rock me to sleep. All feels well. But grief is also like an ocean, it comes in waves. It retreats but with certainty returns.  Sometimes the waves of grief are large like a tsunami.  Other times, they are gentle like a light breeze sweeping across one’s face.  I do not fully understand the emotional toll but contemplating loss can leave us feeling empty and helpless. Time gives us the opportunity to put the loss into perspective.  It takes courage to press forward and give time a chance.

Often there is a sense of helplessness and a feeling of being out of control.  It is understandable to want to avoid the pain, denying expressing your feelings by keeping busy, traveling, making big changes, using drugs or alcohol, etc.  These ways of coping often lead to more serious problems. —- J. Nall

Gratitude can make a difference

When my mom passed, she was in the palliative care unit at one of the premiere hospitals in Los Angeles. I like to think that it was named after the Cedar trees.  I watched the nurses and care givers display genuine emotion as she entered their unit and later when she was gently shifted from her bed and wheeled off of their floor.  I was touched as her physicians came to pay their respects.  She filled every person with love and compassion.  The affection was reciprocated; they loved and cared about her as well.

I learned from my mom to always be gracious.  Despite everything that she went through, she was always kind and loving.  I experienced this through the Palliative care team assigned to her after she was diagnosed with renal cancer. They were angels. They worked together seamlessly to make sure that she was well and those of us supporting her understood we were not alone. The Palliative Care team at Cedar Sinai Hospital impacted me so much that I enrolled in a chaplaincy training program in Palliative care.  I am grateful to the medical staff who considered her more than a patient.  I am grateful that I was given such an extraordinary mother who taught me to live life with purpose.  She showed me through her life how powerful it can be to know God and to demonstrate it by being a loving and caring person.     

It may be helpful to share your feelings with family or friends who can listen supportively.  At times, it’s more comforting to share with someone other than family or close friends, bereavement counselors are available for this as well.  J. Nall

have faith

In the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes explains the seasons of life, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  The author is ascribed to be King Solomon one of the wisest people on earth. In this lesson, he teaches us that life is just like nature, and while we may prefer one season over another, each will pass in its own time. The seasons help us calibrate where we are. They help us prepare for the future. We know that it may be hot in the summer but winter is coming. How do we know? We have faith.

I do not know what you have lost or what may be delayed but I do believe that we can move through this holiday season and this pandemic by taking care of one another. You must have faith that better times are coming. Please don’t hesitate to let those close to you know when you are feeling overwhelmed. Find individuals who can support you by listening to your thoughts and feelings. I am blogging this intimate narrative to encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings with others during this season. Happy Holiday!

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Resources

L. Leblanc, Chaplain, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist. http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/grms/lisa-leblanc

Check your local area health care providers for grief counseling. Los Angeles County Grief Support Resources: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/mch/sids/Grief%20Support%20Informations_complete.pdf

spirituality

What wakes up your spirit?

We can no longer experience life as a passenger. It is too easy to go to sleep. We must take the wheel and be in control of our lives.” Naomi Davis

Today a friend that I have known for decades called to fill me in. He was in hospice, shifting to maintenance drugs. We spoke of family and life. He told me that I was special and he appreciated the relationship that we have shared down through the years. He encouraged me to stay the same. He told me that he had made peace with life and that God wasn’t taking his life, he was freely giving it back to Him. As he spoke, the tears started to stream down my face. Despite my friend having a stroke and memory loss, he remembered me and my family. He was giving me directions and instructions to be free to tell everyone and share his story. I listened and as I did, the word, ‘forgiveness’ jumped out at me. So, I asked him to forgive me if I had done anything to him that was hurtful. He responded with the same request. I smiled.

He is a retired police officer and I am a person of color. Throughout our relationship we have laughed a lot and had passionate discussions. But despite our differing experiences, the foundation of every conversation was love. We talked about it today as well. We agreed love was all that mattered. As I hung up the phone, I started to descend into contemplation. Death brings clarity. But I couldn’t help but feel that I should have been more attentive. I mean, one year ago my mom returned to be with God after a year of rehab and hospice. I watched her yield this life to embrace her freedom from pain and suffering. It took me a year just to breath. Why does the mind drift back to the superficial?

I am not the only one guilty of drifting from tragedy into the trivial. What is it about the human mind that causes us to step back from trauma which seems to keep the door open to more pain instead of leaning in to get healed? I see it in society as we battle with the pandemic. The lack of empathy between human beings is tangible. We are approaching 200,000 deaths in the United States alone. Why are we unable or unwilling to shake off the irrelevant? I think of the numerous shootings in schools; the excessive force that has resulted in innocent lives being taken; the insensitivity toward the refugee’s incarcerated at the border when children were separated from parents. I see so much cruelty throughout history. It seems to be a thread in the human fabric. I have so many questions. When do we wake up and see, we can’t continue to live like this and survive with our souls intact?

Life Is Temporary and Precious

We do not live forever. No one gets an unlimited lifetime. In fact, many are felt to be taken prematurely. My mom was in her eighties when she passed and I still felt that I was cheated out of having more years with her. Our lives can be fulfilling or empty. We can live in a palace or in a cardboard box. We all have a limited amount of time to be alive, thrive, love and be loved. I have discovered a truth about being alive; it matters. We all matter. I had a break through when my friend called me, the slumber had engulfed me because I was not living my truth. I was settling again. Writing this blog has helped me to reawaken.

We come into this world with a supernatural gift. One that when nurtured lives beyond this lifetime. In fact, it stays with us even after we transition from this life. Hopefully you have experienced it. Love. We enter this world with the capacity to love forever. Isn’t that crazy! Many things can happen to cause us to lose love and replace it with hate and intolerance. But I believe that love is with and in us from the beginning. Love is light. Light changes everything. I had forgotten this. Life is not about what I get out of it but rather what I leave behind. God please help me to stay in touch with what is important and to remember the people who have touched me.

Rest In Peace My Friend

Before I finished this blog, my friend yielded to freedom from pain and suffering. Thank you Don. You filled this universe with love. Your life had purpose and meaning. You lived with no regrets. Thank you for opening your heart and shining the light of your love. You reminded me that love does last beyond this lifetime. I will try my best not to fall asleep again.